Under a new law, California middle and high school students must be vaccinated against pertussis (whooping cough). Beginning July 1, 2011, all students entering 7th through 12th grades will be required to show proof of a “Tdap*” booster shot before starting school. This requirement applies to all public and private schools. The new requirement was signed into law in 2010 by Governor Schwarzenegger. Starting July 2012, only students entering 7th grade will need proof of a Tdap booster shot.
In 2010 California experienced its worst outbreak of pertussis in more than half a century, with more than 7,800 confirmed cases and 10 infant deaths. The new immunization requirement is intended to help reduce the spread of whooping cough among California’s youth. Most children are fully protected prior to entering kindergarten because of the DTaP vaccine, a vaccine formulated for younger children. However, immunity to these diseases wears off and adolescents may be vulnerable to the highly contagious disease without a booster.
Approximately 3 million school children will be affected by the Tdap requirement, so it’s important to encourage families to avoid the summer rush and to get their children vaccinated now. Inform parents of children in all 6th through 11th grades via PTA newsletters, on school websites, and in other school communications.
The California Department of Public Health and the California Department of Education have been working collaboratively on this important measure. Information and training materials for schools and parents on the new Tdap requirement, forms, and FAQs are available at www.ShotsForSchools.org.
Remember, in addition to the Tdap booster, there are several important vaccines recommended for preteens and teens including the meningococcal vaccine, a second chickenpox shot (if they never had chickenpox disease), and the HPV vaccine series. Everyone older than six months old is recommended to receive a seasonal flu vaccine.
*The Tdap booster is Tetanus toxoid, reduced diphtheria toxoid and acellular pertussis vaccine. CDPH recommends a Tdap shot for children and adults 10 years and older.